Volume 95, Issue 67

Friday, February 1, 2002

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Fighting for a sporting chance

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2001-2002

Fighting for a sporting chance

While students are laying siege to their university administration offices and schools are crying for more funding from the provincial government, Canadian Interuniversity Sport has opened the vault to student athletes.

Canadian universities, if they wish, may now pay for an athlete's entire tuition, in addition to other expenses not including books or accommodation.

In plain and simple terms, there is no longer a funding cap for universities looking to lure athletes to their varsity teams.

While the $6.2 million given to student-athletes last year is puny compared to the amount of financial aid and academic awards given out in this country, it is important to note every dollar counts.

In essence, a $5,000 full-tuition scholarship given to a guy who has a good jump shot is the same now as a scholarship given to a girl who has maintained an 80 per cent average in school.

Before we go any further, let's quash the argument that a well-run athletic department can actually be financially beneficial to a university in Canada. Western students and taxpayers are the ones footing $3.75 million of the bill for TD Waterhouse stadium, while spectatorship for most teams ends up being nothing more than family and friends.

Yes, there are some donors out there who specifically request their money be given to athletes. But, in the end, the more money given to a university's sports budget means less money for other departments.

Therefore, let's not go overboard giving athletic scholarships left and right in hopes of increasing the level of competition at Canadian schools by leaps and bounds.

We are nowhere near being able to compete with large American schools, nevermind mid-sized, lower-level schools. Elite-level Canuck athletes will continue to go to the United States not only because the financial rewards are exponentially greater, but because the competitive gameplay often goes unmatched worldwide.

In the end, it may not be worth battling small American colleges for athletes. If we are able to hold onto our average athletes, will Canadian sports fans care enough to exercise their wallets at the ticket-sales booth?

We already know the answer to this one.

Perhaps the most effective way to better university sports would be to drop the high academic standards. Smart athletes would have the opportunity to ease up a little and concentrate on sports more while plenty others would find it easier getting a foot in the door.

But this would never fly with Canadians.

Academics have been and, for the foreseeable future, will be the primary concern. Canada's elite varsity athletes will always flock south of the border, since America will always have one thing her Northern neighbour lacks a market for sporting events.

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